Opinion: The Future of Co-Branding

We are living in an age of constant connectedness, resulting in a more demanding customer. As a result, many brands are joining forces to connect in new and ever-more resonant ways. On the one hand, increased activity in multinational mergers and acquisitions is resulting in brands joining together as portfolios are repositioned. On the other, brands are consciously choosing to connect with each other. While collaboration, co-branding, co-joining is nothing new, we believe that the key to an enduring and truly successful coupling – and therefore the future of co-branding - is about managing complementary lifestyles.

Just as we expect our friends to enrich our lives with their personalities and experiences, we have the same expectations of brands and especially the ones that claim to represent aspirational lifestyles. There is huge potential for brands to innovate and create new brand design benchmarks and experiences using the right creative partnerships.

 

In 2013, Club Monaco put in motion a strategy to grow its brand and cultivate meaningful partnerships to excite their guests. In addition to extending their brand to include a line of handbags, accessories, and shoes, Club Monaco re-opened a sprawling flagship store in the Flatiron district with none other than Brooklyn legend, Toby’s Coffee, and New York cultural icon, Strand books. “We wanted to create a space where you don’t just come to buy a sweater, but are getting an education on art and culture,” said Allison Greenberg, Club Monaco’s Director of Marketing and Communications. What Allison doesn’t say outright is that these partnerships have also proved colossally successful for the brand, providing added value to existing Club Monaco shoppers, enhancing their love and loyalty for the brand while enticing an entirely new demographic of patrons through the door at the same time.

Images via Haberdasher Standard

The new ‘smart’ Aros air conditioner is the result of a relatively new but ongoing collaboration between General Electric and Quirky. The Aros gets smarter over time, learning from users’ schedules, habits, location, weather information and past usage. Window air conditioners have never been an inspirational category for industrial design but this is a pertinent example of technology providing an optimized user experience expressed through desirable and aspirational design. It also highlights the effectiveness of this new type of relationship between a traditional company and a collaborative platform. And in this new age of an open and collaborative economy this is undoubtedly paving the way for similar initiatives and highlights the potential breadth of, and power behind, successful co-branding.

There is no doubt that co-branded pop-ups, campaigns and limited editions will continue to create short-term and attention-grabbing visual impact. But, as both collaboration and competition inevitably increase, it’s vital that brands pursue co-branding opportunities wisely. Co-branding must result in a partnership that is not equal to the sum of its parts, but greater. The opportunity is first and foremost about creative partnership. By developing a strategy that aligns not just equities, but also the target lifestyles of consumers, brands can build upon their current demographic, revitalize latent consumers, and attract a whole new generation of brand loyalists. Only using this approach can brands create truly unrivaled and innovative brand expressions that strengthen the equities of both partners and stand the test of time.


Hamish Campbell, Creative Director of Pearlfisher New York 

Hamish is Creative Director of our New York studio, leading and inspiring the design team by setting the creative standard – continually encouraging our designers to demonstrate brilliant conceptual thinking and strong design craftsmanship. He brings his excitingly diverse international experience across branding, packaging, retail and print design to the studio.